Not only did gas go up last week, but diesel fuel as well. As we have a generator to charge our battery bank and drive vehicles, we know we need to cut down our consumption until we can do even more by putting in a solar array and wind charger next year. We have already found an old 1990 Ford Festiva (42 mpg) that we’re buying from a shirt-tail relative. It’s a good, solid, well-maintained car. Yesterday Will built a temporary stand for our two small solar panels, driving concrete rebar into the ground to anchor it. He and David screwed the panels down and ran the wiring into the basement and small charge controller. Yes, they’re small, one is only 15 watts and the other 45 watts, but the needle on the controller says that even during a cloudy, snowy day, they’re charging our battery bank. And even if it lets us go a few hours more without running the generator, that’s a plus!
I am real concerned about the cost of diesel fuel, however. No, we don’t have tractors or other vehicles that use it, BUT nearly everything we buy is trucked and trucks do use diesel fuel…as do the tractors that big farms use to grow corn, wheat, sugar beets, etc. Even last week, I bought a bag of chicken feed and it was $22.95! This is mixed laying grains, not organic, not laying mash. Plain old chicken feed! Ouch! I’m still reeling. So not only are we cutting down on gas, but we’re also rethinking our animal feed. I like to feed my animals plenty of grain…whether they need it or not, just so I can see their enjoyment. That’s stopping. We’re evaluating their real needs and they’re getting just what they need, with carrots or other treats, not store-bought grain. The growing young animals will be getting high protein feed and the milkers and old horses will get more carbohydrates, but the grain-for-treats is stopping.
I’m stocking up on the real cheap baking/holiday store items right now. I know they’ll never be cheaper and will probably be a whole lot higher in the future.
But I know that we can heat our house primarily from wood from our land, we can eat a whole lot of what we grow and raise, and we’re far better off than many folks around the country. For this we are profoundly grateful.
I have used a wheat grinder recently for the first time. There was a lot of hull that would not regrind. What do you do with that? It seem like an awful lot to throw away. Also do you use the same amount of freshly ground flour as you would other flour? Do you have a ratio to how much wheat makes how much flour? Thanks for all you do to help make us self reliant.
I’m not sure you mean by “hull,” as wheat should be threshed before you grind, then winnowed to remove any more chaff and hulls in the threshed wheat. Most grain mills will entirely grind all of the wheat into flour; many cheaper ones need to have the flour re-ground a couple of times as the first grind is quite coarse, but does not contain any hulls. Some better mills can be set to grind finer with a screw. If yours does, tighten up the burrs. If that doesn’t work, I’d call the manufacturer and ask about your problem. Sometimes a person-to-person conversation resolves an issue in short order.
Good luck. No, there really isn’t a ratio, but you should get just about as much flour as you had wheat — just in a different form. — Jackie
Grape seed extract
Please tell me how to make grape seed extract. Can not find a simple recipe anywhere! Perhaps you can help me!
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to extract oil from grape seeds. Basically, you rinse the leftover seeds after making grape juice. These are briefly dried, then pressed to release the oil. You need a cold press, which you might be able to fashion using a bottle jack and two pieces of steel. The seeds are crushed and the oil released. I’d imagine you could then pour the crushed, pressed seeds into a clean container with enough water to cover. The oil would rise to the top, where you could skim it off. Even at this, you can see it is quite labor intensive and requires a LOT of grape seeds. — Jackie
Tomato soup recipe
While I was waiting for your chili recipe to come out of the canner, I was looking into the tomato soup recipe on page 196. It says “set aside 1 quart of the juice”. What happens to it? We really don’t much care for store bought soups and we eat a lot of tomato, so I’m anxious to try this. I hope your new book will have more Meals-in-a-jar recipes. They are so helpful. We hope this winter won’t give you too many problems. Thanks for all your help on questions your readers have.
Oops. You just mix that quart with the parsley leaves until they’re pretty re-hydrated. Then you pour it into your big batch of juice/puree and continue. Jackie
Building a food storage area
I live in a rancher. There is no basement except for a vented crawl space. I am 5’6″ tall and I can sit upright in the crawl space. The crawl space is block with a brick exterior. There is no insulation on the walls or in the floor joists. The earth is covered with 10mil + plastic barrier.
My garage will hold 3 cars with plenty of space on 3 sides. The floor is concrete, the walls, ceiling, (2) walk-in doors and (2) garage doors are all insulated. There is a 30K BTU propane heater for extreme emergencies. The lowest temperature in winter that I’ve seen is about 35-38* – in summer the temps can become as hot as it is out side.
Considering all of the above if I were to build a food storage area in this garage, what would you recommend I do to prevent the stored food from being damaged in the heat of the summer?
Also considering that in a black out or other emergency the electric grid would be down for days in summer weather? Also asking all this in regards to having no electricity during a black out for what ever length of time
Cave City, Kentucky
I think if I were going to build a food storage pantry in your garage, I’d heavily insulate one corner, preferably a north corner, as it would not get any sun exposure from outside. I would insulate all four walls, plus the ceiling. By installing a sliding vent, you can keep the enclosure from getting too humid. You don’t want a window in this room, as it not only lets in light, but also summer heat. In the winter, you can probably just keep the door open, using your heater, should the temps get severely dangerous (approaching freezing).
For the rest of your house, in case of a blackout, I’d invest in a good moderate-sized generator to run essentials that I would plug directly into the unit, via extension cords. This would eliminate any dangers to electrical company linemen, cost much less than the typical generator that is tied into the system, and would be quick and easy to operate. You want one that is large enough to power your furnace blower (winter), your well pump (all seasons), a few lights and a small television or radio so you can be kept in the loop, regarding other problems or possible repairs to the system. — Jackie
Cake in a jar
I’m a master canner. I only feel comfortable using Ball or USDA recipes. I’ve come across a recipe for cake in a jar. It says to bake it and then put the lid on and it will seal, no water bath or pressure canning required. What keeps this from spoiling and developing botulism when its an anaerobic, no oxygen, environment.
I used to make these cakes and they were not only very good, but kept well in the pantry. However, there was research that indicated that it was possible for the development of botulism in these jars. What probably kept these cakes from spoiling was the amount of sugar involved. But, due to the possibility of a problem of contamination, I quit making these cakes in a jar and don’t recommend that other canners make them, either. — Jackie
With it being just the three of you, how many milking does do you have and what do you do with all the milk?
Right now, we are breeding seven does of our own. Of these, we’ll be letting our best kids nurse on their moms. The rest, we’ll be selling so as the kids are sold, we will milk the does. This milk gives us plenty of dairy products: milk, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, and cheese. It also lets us raise a couple of bottle calves “free” by not having to buy powdered calf milk replacer that is now almost $60 a bag. — Jackie
Can I safely home can persimmons? They are the Fuyu type persimmons. The recipes that I have found make me think that they are not safe for home canning. I found a web site that said their pH is between 4.4 and 4.7. Even at that, I would think that they could be pressure canned. I was thinking about cutting them up in to 1″ pieces and canning them in a simple syrup. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
As far as I know, persimmons do not can well. But you can put up persimmon nectar or persimmon butter. There are many recipes on the internet. Freezing is a much better option for persimmons than canning. You also might dehydrate some. Peel and slice them into 1/4″ slices and dehydrate until quite dry. I haven’t done this, but I remember that my elderly Virginia aunt told about drying persimmons, so you might give it a try and see how they turn out. Any readers have any more information for Brenda? — Jackie
Rhubarb and canning super-sweet corn
A couple things your followers might need to know:
It is possible for rhubarb stalks to be poisonous. When rhubarb freezes in the garden, oxalic acid goes from the leaves into the stalks. Check out: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/news/fsnews.cfm?newsid=18424
Sweet corn growers need to chose the variety of seed carefully. When canning supersweet sweet corn, it caramelizes in the jar and becomes brown and tastes burned. I had to throw out an entire canner load because of this. What a complete waste! See this article, page 3. http://lancaster.extension.psu.edu/Nutrition/LetsPreserveNewsletters/LetsPreserve2005/LPAugust%2005.pdf .
Lone Rock, Wisconsin
That’s interesting about the rhubarb; I’ve used it my whole life, as did my Mom and grandmas. Evidently we never used any that had been frozen by late spring freezes. Mine doesn’t come up until most severe freezing weather is done and it does take quite a bit of freezing without damage. Freezing damage is indicated by watery looking, droopy leaves with an abnormal color. After reading about this, I sure wouldn’t harvest any rhubarb stalks when the leaves exhibited these symptoms following a period of low freezing temperatures.
As for the super sweet corn — yes, it can do this. But I’ve canned quite a bit of it in the past without having it do this. It’s best to use pints and half-pints and not make creamed corn from super sweets. Better yet, freeze and eat the super sweets fresh and choose other sweet corns to can. — Jackie